One solder with two wives: Local woman fights for rights as widow

Army Specialist Moises J. Gonzalez was killed in Afghanistan last week. His wife in Bakersfield says an army counselor told her that his first wife will be receiving her husband's military benefits and flag at the funeral.
Ruth Bayona says she met her husband on MySpace four years ago and found out on Facebook he died.

"They're saying that Moises passed away, and I’m like what are you talking about, no because he always calls me in the morning,” Bayona said. “She forwarded me the post on Facebook and it said rest in peace Gonzo.”

Army Specialist Moises J. Gonzalez died of injuries he sustained when his vehicle rolled over in Balkh province, Afghanistan last Wednesday. Governor Jerry Brown had flags flown at half-staff at the state capitol on Wednesday in Spc. Gonzalez's honor. He was 29 years old and leaves behind three young children.

Bayona says she and Gonzalez married in Las Vegas two years ago in May. The couple has one one-year-old son together. It wasn't until after she and Gonzalez’ parents flew to Dover, Delaware to receive her his body that a Casualty Assistance Officer broke the shocking news of another woman to receive her husband's benefits and flag.

"He said I’m sorry Ruth, but the JAG made a decision that she's the first wife so she's the one who's going to be recognized as the wife,” Bayona said. “Just because of the years of the marriage certificates.”

Bayona says she broke down and could not believe it. She says her husband didn't tell her about his first wife until late last year, and claimed they filed for divorce years before.

“I was like how could they do this to me,” she said. “Just throw me down to the side and ever since they don’t call me anymore, they just treat me like a baby mama.”

Bayona's sister Veronica Gutierrez says she is fighting for her sister’s right to be recognized as the true widow. She says a Casualty Affairs officer blew her off on the phone.

“He says I know that story, everybody knows this story,” Gutierrez says. “Well we need help, this is not right, you guys need to honor, forget about my sister or this other person, we’re talking about a soldier, who was out there for almost 9 years fighting for this country.”

Gonzalez's mother Urania Gonzalez says she doesn't know which wife to side with and feels caught in the middle because they both have children by her son.

Bayona says she is not fighting for the benefits, she only wants to be recognized as Gonzalez’s wife and receive his flag the day of his funeral. She submitted her marriage certificate, power of attorney form and a life insurance policy listing her as the beneficiary to army officials. She has never met Gonzalez's first wife, and says she was only married two her husband for six months nine years ago.

"This woman hasn't been in his life for years and the only reason she's coming out right now is because of the benefits,” she says. “I was with him during thick and thin for 3 years and he's not here to say anything to explain himself. I should get the flag, not her."

Spc. Gonzalez’ funeral will be held at Saint Matthias Catholic Church in his hometown of Huntington Park on Monday at 9 a.m. He will be buried by his grandparents in the Inglewood Cemetery.
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